How to Overcome Depression (Step One)

I've been staring at this blank white screen for what feels like hours, wondering where to even begin.

"How to Overcome Depression."

Depression.

The Monster that took the life of my brother.

The Monster that fueled my eating disorder.

Even putting "how to" and "depression" in the same line seems downright silly.

As if a wikiHow article could save someone from a life of depression...

(No offense to the creators of wikiHow, keep doin' your thing).

How to treat a sunburn.

How to train a dog.

How to clean a carpet.

How to overcome depression.

One of these four doesn't belong.

Depression isn't a quick fix.

For some, depression is a daily, lifelong fight.

Just how many people struggle with depression?

15 million. In America alone.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression "affects more than 15 million American adults in a given year."

And that's only American adults age 18+. Think of how many children you know who struggle with depression too.

On top of that, about 6.8 million American adults suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (myself being one of them), 6 million suffer from Panic Disorder, 15 million from Social Anxiety Disorder, 19 million from Specific Phobias, 2.2 million from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, 7.7 million from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and the list goes on and on.

So while 15 million suffer from actual diagnosed depression, millions upon millions more struggle with other types of disorders that could eventually lead to depression as well.

So I think you'll understand why I feel that the Lord is calling me to write about this important topic.

I believe there are three key steps to overcoming depression.

Of course, as this is my personal blog, this is based entirely on what has helped me overcome my depression in the past. However, I know that what works for one person won't necessarily work for another person. So I encourage anyone who is facing depression (or any other mental health concern, for that matter) to meet with a mental health professional to figure out what works best for you and your recovery. To find a therapist in your area, enter your zip code here: https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/. There are so many resources out there. Please take advantage of them. In the meantime, here are my Top Three Steps for Overcoming Depression.

Step One: God

Step Two: Gratitude

Step Three: Grace

Step One: GOD

The first step to recovery is acknowledging that you cannot recover on your own.

You've heard it said that "it takes a village" and "the bigger the dream, the more important the team." Recovery is certainly a big dream. It's a lofty goal. So yes, you will need support from other people. You'll need your parents, friends, therapists, psychiatrists, etc. Anyone who has the willingness and ability to support you in the best way possible. Each of these members of your "team" will be vital in helping you along your path to recovery.

Yet I argue that the greatest member of your team, the One who has the chance to be your greatest motivation in recovery, is God.

I firmly believe that there is a God-shaped hole inside each one of our hearts. "A place inside of our hearts that only God can fill. If we try to put anything else in there, it won't fit (meaning, it won't fill the need we have inside of our heart/soul)."

Blaise Pascal - seventeenth century French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher - writes in his book Pensees (1669):

"What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself."

My life, the lives of addicts/alcoholics, and many others' lives are living proof of this God-shaped hole.

If you don't believe me, go ahead: try it. Test my words and see if they're true.

I, and many others, have tested these words.

I often have trouble believing that only God can truly satisfy me.

Paul writes in Philippians 3:8, "What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ."

Really?

There's NO way that's true.

What about everything the world has to offer?

Shouldn't that be enough?

What about boys and bars and parties and pills?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. We live in a society obsessed with feelings of instant happiness.

Instant gratification, instant satisfaction.

Thanks to social media and technological advancements, we can pretty much get anything we want, whenever we want.

So when Paul claims that everything - how much money you have, what kind of car you drive, what you do for a living, who your friends are, how many friends you have, who you're dating - is a LOSS because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ...

...seems pretty hard to believe, doesn't it?

Take it from someone who has tested these words and has found them to be true.

Paul's words hold a truth our feeble human minds may never fully grasp.

Plain and simple: we need God.

Our hearts were created to love Him, to know Him.

One of my favorite lines from St. Augustine -

"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are RESTLESS until they rest in you."

If you believe you can recover without God and if any part of you thinks you can live without the love of God, then good for you: keep on living. I can only speak from my experiences when I say that I believe this life is utterly pointless if not for the existence of God.  I believe that you cannot prove the existence of God, but you also cannot disprove His existence. Think of faith like love or gravity. You can't actually visibly see love or see gravity, but you know they both exist because you can feel the effects of them each and every day.

The movie The Case for Christ taught me that God is the same way. We will never have enough evidence to prove that God exists. But we do know for a fact that a man named Jesus existed and claimed to be the Son of God, as we have actual historical documents (even outside of the Bible) with details of His life and death. And we do know that the early Christian martyrs (and many Christians thereafter) died for the faith. They sacrificed themselves for their love of God. Not because they had heard about this Jesus and all the great things He did, but because they actually saw him with their own eyes. They were eyewitnesses to Jesus' love, and they died for Jesus' love.

In spite of the outstanding and growing evidence we have for Christianity, it still comes down to one thing: FAITH.

You just have to have faith.

There will never be enough evidence to convince all the skeptics and atheists of the world.

Jesus reminds us in John 20:29, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." And we read later on in Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is CONFIDENCE in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

Perhaps the greatest evidence we have for God is the change of heart we see in people who choose to follow Him.

I've seen it in others; I've seen it in myself.

John 14:23: "Jesus replied, 'Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.'"

Jesus wants to make His home in our hearts.

Your life begins to change once you realize that God is within you and has been there for you this whole time.

"God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day" (Psalm 46:5).

You begin to laugh in the face of depression once you realize that depression cannot touch you, for you are clothed in the strength of Christ.

"She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future" (Proverbs 31:25).

***

The first step to overcoming depression is acknowledging that you were created to love and be loved by God. You were created with a God-shaped hole inside your heart that no amount of alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, relationships, food (or lack thereof), money, houses, cars, shoes, clothes, etc. will ever, ever fill. The first step along the path to recovery is recognizing your daily, undeniable need for God and His strength. Just as your body needs daily refeeding, your heart needs daily retuning. Your heart needs daily redirection towards God. Without Him, we are empty and powerless in the face of our struggles. But with Him, we have all the strength we need. With Him, we have everything we could ever need to recover.

"The Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation" (Psalm 118:14).

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak" (Isaiah 40:29).

THANK YOU for reading my blog (and feel free to come back soon for steps 2 and 3!).

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to me (Haley) at hhoyle@alumni.nd.edu. I would love to hear from you!

Thanks to my mom for this very special gift.

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